Kelly Christopherson, who I follow on Twitter, posted a blogging challenge. I thought this was a good way to start writing again. My blogging has been sporadic the last few years for an assortment of reasons. I’m not in a classroom situation any more which means that I’m not working with students to use technology. Last year I worked with a grade six class to begin blogging but the class only worked on their blogs once a week when I was with them. My hope was that the classroom teacher would embrace the blog as a way for her class to complete assignments and connect with peers. This school year meant another change and I’m slowly starting to feel comfortable in my new school. If I’m there next year I would love to work with teachers and students in using technology in their classrooms.

The topic for this week is Organization/Productivity – tools you use. Share how you stay organized and the tools you use to manage your time and focus on being productive.

I have to admit that I’m still a paper agenda person. I like putting my pencil to paper and being to able to flip through the pages of my agenda. I occasionally use my iPhone’s calendar to record appointments but when I get home I put the appointment on the calendar on the fridge then once I’m at work it goes into my agenda. The calendar on the fridge allows family to see when we have appointments.

searchOnce in a while I have used the sticky note feature on my desktop but I prefer little yellow sticky notes that I can write reminders on. I sometimes carry the sticky notes with me when I’m completing a task so I don’t forget what I wanted to do.

 

I also write my to-do list in a book. There is something incredibly satisfying about crossing off an item on my list that I have completed.

Obviously I have not embraced technology to manage my time and paper makes me happy for notes and reminders. Maybe I’ll use my phone a bit more this year. Who knows….. it’s only February so anything could happen!

I just read an interesting post that discussed what are the most important interview questions that should be asked when Hiring a Director of Technology.

In her post Jean Tower made a list of information that would be important to know before hiring a Director. A few of her questions are:

Tell us about your vision of technology in education.

Describe the role of a technology director in an educational environment.

What would be your most important priorities for your first week on the job? first month? first year?

How would you work closely with curriculum and instruction department and how would you develop that relationship?

Michael Gorman added his thoughts:

1. How do you evaluate the success in the programs that you oversee?

2. How do you answer a teacher’s concern that states “I have no time for technology because I have to much curriculum to follow?”?

3. What is the role of technology in a 21st century school program?

4. How do you differentiate the idea of technology and curriculum?

5. What steps do you take to insure that technology serves the student?

6. How do you decide on technology purchases for a building?

7. In what areas should you be involved in professional development and how can you use technology to sustain teacher growth?

Liz Davis added her thoughts: I would definitely also want to know how they are personally using technology. What are their favorite technology tools? Are they blogging? Do they use Twitter? I would ask them to describe their personal learning network. I would also ask what blogs they read? Who inspires them? Who do they follow on Twitter? Why?

I would like to know what the Director candidate thought about filtering in schools. Does the person think that filtering is necessary? Do they think there are sites that should be blocked? This information would tell me a lot about the person.

So, what would you ask? What would the most important question be?




Curriculum, pedagogies and practice with ICT in the information age

Nicola Yelland, Chapter 14: page 225

Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education
Edited by Nicola Yelland

This is an reflection that I wrote for a previous class that has relevance to the discussions that I’ve been having with colleagues and supervisors in my school division.

I connected with the challenges that educators are having integrating technology into their classrooms. Yelland comments on the concerns being raised about the amount of time young children spend on computers and whether that time is time well spent. The concerns are not support by research or data. In fact, research is showing that home use of computers support learning. In Jackie Marsh’s article Digikids: Young children, popular culture and media she finds that research supports computer use. On page 189 Marsh quotes “The relationship between literacy learning and computer-game playing is complex, but nevertheless significant” (Gee, 2003; and Pahl, 2005). Many people who object to computer use are focused on violent games, inappropriate web sites and questionable content but are not using research to support their beliefs. I believe as educators we need to teach students responsible use of  computers, software and the internet because we see the value of computers for students. I recently read a blog post about filtering of internet in school and how we as teachers need to teach our students what sites they are to use in school and what sites aren’t appropriate. Will Richardson, who wrote the blog post, thought that filtering was a form of classroom management so that teachers didn’t have to teach responsible use. 

Yelland’s article also looked at the value of ‘authentic activities’ that students can experience using computers and the internet. In my own case, my students have gone on virtual field trips around North America, dissected a frog, examined and commented on art in museums, visited Auschwitz and collaborated with students around the world. My students also have personal blogs which allow them to post their writing on-line and have an authentic audience to provide feedback. I find it hard to understand that people could not see the value in the experiences students have using technology. Students become excited when they have visitors to their blogs that read their writing or leaving comments. The visitors or their audience provide motivation to continue writing and posting to their blogs but perhaps the biggest factor is that students begin to want to write ‘for’ their audience. Students become better descriptive writers who become more aware of the mechanics of their writing so that they can provide their audience with interesting blog articles to read.  The goal is that the blogs can provide authentic audiences, rich discussions, feedback and interactions for the reader and the writer.

On page 226 Yelland states “Children are exposed to computers and a vast range of new technologies in every aspect of their lives. It is impossible for any of us to avoid technologies since they are integratal to everything we do.” Leonie Rowan and Eileen Honan in the article Literaily lost: the quest for quality literary agendas in early childhood education explores the various types of literacies that young children engage in. Young children are already participating in “media literacy, computer literacy, technological literacy, visual literacy or emotional literacy” (page 195). If young children are already exposed to these various literacies why wouldn’t we as educators embrace these opportunities to build upon them as we teach the children? Yelland continues this thought “If schools ignore this (the prevalent use of technology in our society) they cease to be relevant to life in the twenty-first century “(page 226).

On page 227 Yelland questions the new curriculum “there has been an increasing recognition that curriculum decision-making needs to take note of children’s out-of-school experiences and build upon them.” I agree that these questions need to be asked and educators need to be the ones to make changes in their classroom. I also think there should be changes made in teacher education programs that weave technology use throughout the content classes to show pre-service teachers how use technology in the classroom. Yelland quotes Dede who has “called on educators to ‘reshape children’s learning experience in and out of school to prepare them for a future quite different from the immedate past. Meeting this challenge involves teaching new skills, not simply teaching old skills better” (2002, p.178).

These are questions that the articles raised:

1. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in schools?

2.  Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

3. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology? Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

4. How do you use technology in your teaching/school?

5. What type of technology use do you feel has the most value to students?

6. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in school?

7. Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

8. What future are we preparing our students/children for?

9. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology?

10. Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

11. Why do educators have to prove that use of technology is beneficial to students?

    I just finished viewing and reflecting on Steve Wheeler’s slide presentation on New Pedagogies for the Digital age. As Wheeler states “The future of education will be premised on what students need – and that will include creative solutions, flexible, personalisable tools, and device responsiveness that is culturally relevant. It’s going to be exciting and challenging!” It occurred to me that there is much discussion about what type of education students need and what pedagogy is best to prepare students for an unknown future.

    In Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning Helen Beethem and Rona Sharpe argue that there is nothing new about using technologies for learning. From the beginning of time every tool that has been introduced to enhance learning and teaching has been a new invention. Beethem and Sharpe continue with “The networked digital computer and its more recent mobile and digital are just the latest outputs of human ingenuity that we have at our disposal.” Beethem and Sharpe contend “that these technologies represent a paradigm shift … on the theory of learning.” Beethem and Sharpe question how digital technologies constitute a new context for learning and explore this in their book.

    In his paper How has pedagogy changed in a digital age? Hayat Al-Khatib concludes that “The full potential of ICT support should be explored in learner-centered strategies to shift pedagogic orientation to cater more for the role of the learner in the learning process, taking advantage of the resources and tools made available in the digital age.”

    Our goal as educators should be to develope a curious, flexible and creative student who is able to work cooperatively in group situations. Whether that group is within that student’s classroom, school, city or even country depends on the student and teacher’s ability to connect to a learning network outside of the student’s building. The biggest change since I started teaching is that type of tools and technology available to me. I still remember learning how to use a gestetner machine and how exciting a photo copier in the school was. The difference now is that we live in a digital age and as educators, digital tools are what we have to use with our students. In Block 5 for my EC&I 832 class we’ve been exploring various web tools and questioning how they can help us in our teaching practice. If we consider the cartoon sites, movie makers, digital story telling and social networking applications as technological tools we can use them wisely to enhance learning in a digitally relevant way.

    I’ve been watching Henry Jenkins video on Edutopia.  Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching | Edutopia.  He believes that students and teachers are being hampered by schools due to filtering and sites being blocked. The access to technology is being restricted by school IT departments who are not the people actually using the technology. I’m starting to see this trend in my own school division. I know that the internet has more filters and restrictions in the high schools in my school division and right now there are very few sites filtered in the elementary schools. This means that my students and I can access information, videos and web tools whenever we want to. Yes, occasionally a student goes on a site I don’t want them to go on but that becomes a teaching opportunity when I talk about digital responsibility. Jenkins also states that teachers and districts need to recognize that there is a lot of learning going outside of schools. He believes that educators need to value this learning and incorporate it into our teaching. If we give students to discuss and share what they are learning beyond our four walls we open up our classrooms to rich sharing and discussion opportunities.

    Jenkins states that it is time to get rid of the roles of digital natives and digital immigrant.  I’ve often thought that those terms were over used and not always correct. There needs to be a shift that we work and learn together particularly in a culture of connectiveness and sharing. Jenkins also believes that we need to move away from the autonomous model of learning and move to a collaborative culture of students and teachers being partners in education. To accomplish this teachers need to be connected and build a supportive and social network to support the work they want to do in their classrooms. I believe that if teachers are connected we are more apt to connect our students to enrich their learning.

    Jenkins suggests we need to make a paradigm shift in our teaching to give students the skills they need to work in the new media landscape: play, performance, judgement, networking, negotiation, collective intelligence and appropriation. These are collaborative skills that translate into all subject areas and into students lives beyond school. The bottom line is that students won’t remember a lot of the subject content that we teach them but they will carry they skills we teach them far beyond us.

    Jenkins poses some interesting discussion questions which makes me consider the roles of teachers, technology and schools in teaching students for the future.

    1. How are schools limiting kids’ access to digital tools? Do you agree with these policies?

    2. Do you see the participation gap in your school and community?

    3. How do we create shared learning opportunities across generations?

    4. Are schools ready to give up control to kids, families, and communities of learning? What are the opportunities and challenges?

    5. What does authorship mean in the digital age? How do we teach it to kids?

    Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching | Edutopia.

    I finished reading Will Richardson’s article “Footprints in the Digital Age” this morning and I thought about my footprint then about my students. So in the spirit of Block 5 I thought about I could use digital tools to represent my learning. I decided to create an Animoto movie with the ideas from Will’s article. I love using Animoto for my own projects and it’s a great alternative to iMovie for my students to use. The tricky part is that I’m having a tough time embedding it on this wordpress blog. I’ve tried exporting it directly but wordpress is not recognizing my password when I export from Animoto. I downloaded the movie to my desktop but because I don’t have Quicktime Pro I couldn’t export or upload it to my blog post. So I’m on attempt number three. I’m uploading the Animoto movie to YouTube then I will get the html link from Youtube to insert in this post. You’ll know if you see the movie that it worked. This exercise reinforces the concept to me that we don’t have to be technology experts but we must be willing to learn with our students, experiment, experience technological defeat and be ready to try again.

    I’ve been busy wrapping up the end of another school year and leaving for summer vacation. I returned home this past Saturday and again got busy finishing up a presentation for provincial science teachers. Interested science teachers in the province were attending a four day conference at The University of Regina. The province of Saskatchewan is in the process of piloting new middle years science units. I’ve been involved in the piloting for the past school year by attending meetings, discussing the curriculum with other science teachers and piloting new units. I’ve enjoyed the process and the opportunity to provide feedback from myself and my students as we work our way through the new curriculum.

    This past Wednesday I presented technology links, activities, simulations, lesson and unit plans for two of the grade six units: Flight and  Space. I had organized my information on wikis using the draft curriculum and organizing the links based on the expected outcomes and their learning indicators. My first question  from my audience was “What’s a wiki?” At that point I had to do some back tracking and explain the Web 2.0 tools I was using. Throughout the presentation I was asked questions about how I had used technology and Web 2.0 tools to prepare my presentation. By the end of the session I had explained wikis, classblogmeister, delicious, diigo and twitter. I also discussed the power of networks particularly for the teachers who work in rural communities within the province. At one point one of the attendees asked the organizer if I could come back next year and present specifically on Web 2.0 tools and their application for science teachers.

    My biggest worry when the questions starting coming was not to overwhelm anyone with the variety of networking tools I was using. I know that it can be a bit intimidating when you’re new to technology and someone is spouting off names and links when you’re just starting out. I wanted to assure everyone that a year and a half ago I had started with a class blog, six months later added wikis and continued from there as I had time. My advice was that the teachers choose one tool to begin with and slowly add to their repetoire. Many of the teachers were interested in using wikis to organize their unit plans so I left my email address and invited questions as they began their technology journey.

    I hope I inspired some teachers to use Web 2.0 tools in their teaching even though that wasn’t my intent when I planned my presentation. I’ll post links to the new units with the technology resources as soon as the Ministry of Education approves the new curriculum.